Apple’s iPad is known to be the best tablet on the market, partly thanks to its high level of security against cyberthreats. This begs the question: “Can iPads get malware?”
Hackers will use all kinds of malicious software to disrupt your device and steal valuable information, regardless of how strong a device’s built-in privacy and security protections are. Unfortunately, no device is safe from malware, but some are better prepared to fend off attacks from adware, spyware, ransomware and more.
This article will help you discover if your iPad is safe from malware and a few ways to remove any malicious software hiding on your Apple tablet safely.
Can my iPad get malware?
The short answer is: yes. An iPad can get malware.
That being said, it is less likely for an iPad to be infected with malware or a virus compared to other tablets. Apple is known for boasting a secure operating system (OS) and layers of protection on its App Store.
A popular method for hackers to infect mobile devices is through apps. There are plenty of examples of malware on Android apps, as it’s an easy way to trick potential victims into downloading legitimate-looking apps.
However, thanks to Apple’s meticulous screening process before apps are made available, it’s harder for threat actors to get a malicious app on the App Store. In fact, Apple’s App Store protected users from nearly 1.7 million apps found to be breaching privacy, security and content standards, preventing over $2 billion in potentially fraudulent in 2022.
Since all apps on iPad are obtained from the App Store and are sandboxed, Apple tablets have a strong defence against malware threats. But that doesn’t make it impossible for iPads to get malware.
From adware and Trojans to ransomware and spyware, hackers use all kinds of malware to loot your personal and financial data – and all it takes is a mistaken click on a dodgy website, malicious email attachment or suspicious app on the App Store that has slipped through the crack (such as these fake ChatGPT apps).
Examples of iPad malware
There are several examples of malware infecting iPads, and some of the most common include adware, spyware and ransomware.
In terms of spyware, the Pegasus spyware is one of the most common. It was developed by the NSO Group, an Israeli cyber-intelligence firm, and has infected iOS (including iPadOS) and Android mobile devices. It’s known to take screenshots, listen in on phone calls and see what the user types on their phone. It can also remove itself from the device if someone discovers it. Now that’s advanced.
In the Oleg Pliss attack, threat actors threatened users with ransomware after using an existing iCloud password leak. It could lock iOS devices using the Find My feature, with attackers demanding payment for users to unlock their devices.
Check out our explainers for more on what each type of malware can do.
- Adware explained: What is it and how to remove it
- Ransomware attacks explained: What is it and how to prevent it
- Spyware explained: What is it and how to remove it
Signs of malware on iPad
Malware can be hard to spot, as cybercriminals will do everything in their power to hide the malicious software so they can carry out their cruel acts right under a user’s nose. However, there are telltale signs that your iPad is under attack, which may include your device’s browser (like Safari or Chrome) redirecting you to different web pages and installing unwanted toolbars, extensions or plugins via a browser hijacker. Any malware can also affect your device directly.
- Your device is slower than usual and crashes frequently.
- Your browser is slower than usual and crashes frequently.
- Browsing through websites takes longer.
- You need to recharge your device more often.
- Apps take longer to load.
- There’s an unknown app or software on your device you didn’t download.
- An app you downloaded is missing from the home screen.
How to remove malware on iPad
Malware can hide in seemingly trustworthy apps you download from the App Store, meaning all you need to do to eliminate any harmful effects on your iPad is to delete the app. Instead of deleting the app directly, it’s best to remove it safely and use the right software to get rid of malicious software lurking on your device.
Despite Apple’s tablets using a different OS than iPhones, iPadOS and iOS function similarly. This means you can expect the same level of protection an iPhone provides, along with the same security apps and methods to get rid of malware.
Use antivirus software
Simply put, the best way to eliminate malware is to use the best antivirus software.
Many free malware removal apps will dispatch malicious software on your device. Still, it’s a good idea to ensure these tools are trustworthy, as hackers can also disguise these apps on the App Store to deploy even more malware.
The best antivirus apps come with a suite of security features that can eliminate viruses, malware, ransomware, spyware or any malicious software that burrows into your iPad. Some antivirus software, such as Bitdefender, offers security subscriptions specifically for iPhone, making it a more cost-effective option for those needing only iPhone protection.
We recommend free apps from known cybersecurity companies, including Avast One, AVG and Malwarebytes Mobile Security. These will detect and remove malware on your iPad. Check out our thoughts on each antivirus below.
Safely remove an app on iPad
- On your device, press the necessary buttons to turn off your device.
- Turn your device on again by holding the power button.
- Once it lights up, hold down the volume down button until you see the Apple logo. Your iPad should now be in Safe Mode.
- Tap and hold any suspicious or unwanted apps.
- Tap Delete App. Restart your device to go back to normal mode.
Clear cache on iPad
Apps and browsers that store your online activity can be used and spied on by malware. With this in mind, it’s a good idea to clear your browser and app cache on your iPad to minimise the effects of the malicious software. Moreover, clearing the cache can also help clear up space on your iPad, boosting performance.
- To clear app cache, go to Settings on your device.
- Tap General.
- Select iPad Storage.
- Choose an app you wish to clear.
- Tap Offload App.
- A message will appear stating it will delete the app but keep its documents and data. Tap Offload App.
Many iPad owners use Safari as their default browser. Here’s how to clear cache in Safari on iPad.
- Go to Settings.
- Scroll down and tap Safari.
- Navigate to Advanced at the bottom and tap on it.
- Tap Website Data.
- Tap Remove All Website Data.
Clear iPad data and restore from backup
Some malware on iPhone or iPad can be tricky to detect and remove. If your iPhone or iPad is still acting strangely and the harmful side effects persist, you’ll want to try erasing your data and restoring your iPhone or iPad to a previous state. Hopefully, before the malware sneaked its way onto your device.
- On your device, head to Settings and tap on General.
- Scroll to the bottom and select Transfer and Reset.
- Choose Erase All Content and Settings.
- Tap Backup Then Erase.
- A menu will pop up. Select Restore from iCloud Backup.
- in your iCloud account, select the backup that should resolve the issue. Make sure you have the right documents and files you need saved.